A Ghost of a Pinned Chance

For this week’s prompt, we’re at a restaurant for lunch. One of those local businesses, with an antique fireplace in your favorite room to eat in. The restaurant, you see, is inside a very old house, one with a murky, somewhat spooky, history. The restaurant is even part of the village’s ghost tour at Halloween time every year. But that’s all nonsense, right?….. (Read the rest of the opening prompt here.)

You eye the door. It’s solid, naturally, being a door and all. Still, if Lara Croft can fist-punch a granite statute, this skeleton-keyed obstruction shouldn’t stand much chance against a vegan-powered, Umbrella Academy-watching powerhouse like you.

Unfortunately, an attempted shift of your center of gravity reminds you that about three feet of petticoats and lace obstruct any sudden movement. If not for the witch-woman who first introduced you to The Door, you would have fallen in a puffy white heap. “Steady, Beatrice,” she admonishes. Then, some expression or resolve of your eyebrows catches her attention. “I wouldn’t try fainting again, Miss Pondewaste. Your father supplied me with smelling-salts.”

With a sniff, your matron of imprisonment opens the door. She hustles you out, arm firmly round your brocaded waist. “Not that he would consider such an event occurring that I would need smelling salts…” the stern woman mumbles as you attempt to walk down a narrow hall.

You feel too distracted to pay her much attention. The walls, formerly painted and hung with cheap printer paper pictures of vintage times, are now wallpapered. Sad, serious paintings hang in proper frames at measured spaces along the papering. A spindly-legged end table supports a flickering oil lantern atop an embroidered cloth. Its light plays across the delicate white stitchings of your dress.

Your dress! You stop mid-shush to admire the extensive needlework and lacework arms. How many slave laborers had to give their lives to produce this thing? “Now, Miss Beatrice,” Mean Lady hisses. Your tailing ladies-in-waiting snicker unprofessionally behind you, stopping at a quick glance from your captor.

Against any will you might have had, she drags you to the end of the hall. What is going on? What can I do? you wonder. Dimlit walls and antique furnishings distract and confuse you. Your tormentor walks you forward relentlessly, grunting with the effort and chastening you that, “It’s just the entry, for Pity’s sake!”

As a sunlight-outlined door flanked by sentry windows draws imminently close, you realize that something sharp is within your hand. You’ve been caressing it as you walked, oblivious to the action.

Your tread slows, even against the push of Mean Lady. You draw your hand before your face and squint to focus on the object in question. It’s the sewing pin, the one you picked up from a restaurant floor a few centuries hence.

“What have you got, Beatrice?”

As your fingers slip down the sides of the pin and you hold it aloft in the light, her eyes widen. Her eyebrows raise. “Where did you get that? Just give it here; I’ll -” her clawlike hand reaches to take it but instinct tells you to keep it away from her. You move it just as she snatches.

“Beatri- Miss Pondewaste! Hand it over this instance!” She makes another grab. Very unladlylike.

You turn your body to help shield against her reachings and make a split-second decision. With the aid of the other hand, you snap the pin in half. *Snit*

The Mean Lady’s gasp is the last thing you hear before blacking out.

The next thing you hear, of course, is that too-good-looking server’s voice, “Mushroom risotto, just as you ordered.” A plate clinks to the table in front of you and its steaming contents are the first, blessed thing you see. After that is the gorgeous server’s face. Nothing like the present.

“Oh, hey,” he says suddenly. “Did you drop something?” He stoops to the floor and retrieves two broken halves of a sewing pin.

“No!” you nearly yell. Seeing his confusion and surprise, you repeat it more calmly. “No, thank you.” You take up your napkin and lay it on your lap. “Go ahead and just throw it away.”

He shrugs and walks away, leaving you to your risotto. It’s a good thing Mean Lady isn’t there to witness your eating it, because you’re too hungry to mind many manners.

In response to Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt. What an imagination!

Sleep Tight IV

Continued from Sleep Tight, III.

I’d tucked my feet safely in beneath a blanket fold, just as I’d done all those years ago in my childhood bedroom. I’d mostly convinced myself that cloth was a sufficient barrier between me and potential insects, questionable mattress stains, and lingering dust.

Watching dancing shadows cross the ceiling and recalling disturbing memories did little to assure my hypersensitive mind against other possibilities, however.

If not for the exhaustion of traveling hours to arrive at these “free” lodgings, I would likely not have even thought to sleep in the house. If not for cleaning the upstairs all afternoon, my aversions to physical impediments (like vermin) would have sent us scuttling to the car. If not for an evening spent in emotional stress over a broken leg and the physical labor of hoisting an eight-year-old boy up a large, dusty, winding, creaking staircase –

Nope. Exhaustion alone was only working to frighten me more, as my body complained of serious physical limitations to action. My mind said, Why was the door moving? There was no wind; no breeze. It sent panicked shivering down my poor, sore limbs. They, in turn, responded with, Can’t move; need sleep.

A face had looked at me from beside my son’s reflection in the mirror this afternoon. We need to move; take action; freak out! screamed my anxious brain, but exhaustion was winning out.

Doors and faces slunk from their corner memory spaces to dance and moan amidst feverish dreams. Background creaks and groans from the house itself accompanied them, unbeknownst to my snoozing consciousness.

Daylight came, with my usual three alarm clocks: Sam, Jonny, and Ollie.

“Mo-o-o-om!” All three called, in asynchronous cadence. They pounded into my bedroom; Sam hopping to do so. Though not all able to walk precisely the same, all three faces bore the same looks of terror. I sat up, fully awake. Not-too-distant dreams haunted my perceptions as I nervously waited for their answers.


Sam spoke first. “Were you downstairs this morning?” His face had settled somewhat more than his brothers’. Clearly, he expected an affirmative answer.

Instinctively, my ears strained to listen for any noises from the floor below. For once, I heard only us, and a bit from Nature just outside the single bedroom window. It was glowing innocently in the morning sunlight, beyond our meeting around my antique bed.

I looked up at my children’s faces. They were so trusting. “Why?” I asked them carefully, needing to hear the answer but knowing I didn’t really want to.

Ollie spoke first. “Dere was clunking,” he said, in the typical manner of a three-year-old.

Clunking?” I wondered aloud.

As if on cue, something dropped to the floor in one of the rooms downstairs.